Monthly Archives: October 2005


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(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

“There was one point where there was a pile, and I was on the bottom of the pile and I thought, ‘My wife’s watching. Get up quick.’ Normally I’m slow to get up, taking inventory and stuff but I thought I’d better get up quick because she was watching.”
-Tedy Bruschi on last night’s game.

I’d venture a guess that his wife wasn’t the only person holding their breath the first time Tedy went down. But he popped right back up. Because he’s Tedy Bruschi and it’s gonna take a lot more than that to keep him down.

As fans, we didn’t know if this day was going to come. We weren’t sure if Tedy would ever walk or see properly again, let alone take the field. But perhaps that’s what explains the difference between us as fans and the players. We miss a week or two of watching football and we may get irritated and be dying to know what happened, but they miss a snap, and it starts killing them. Tedy Bruschi is a husband and a father first and foremost – and he’ll be the first to admit that – but he is a football player. And football players do not stalk the sidelines in headsets, calling out plays. Football players do not shuffle through papers on a clipboard and coach rookies. Football players do not mug for the camera and choreograph elaborate touchdown dances. Football players play football. All Tedy Bruschi wanted to do was play football.

I’ll admit, ESPN’s constant harping on Bruschi’s recovery and return was a little over the top. And the playing of “Hero” during every commercial break may have been just a teensy bit much. But I’m not gonna pretend like I didn’t tear up during pre-game when Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel were interviewed and they kept talking about how much Bruschi means to the team and how excited they were to have him back. I know, it’s manipulative, but it’s also true. And if you weren’t at least a little moved by it, you clearly are not in possession of a soul.

And look, clearly the team DID need him. Last night was the first time all season that the Pats’ defense (long their strong suit) had held the opponent to fewer than 20 points. I’m willing to bet that Bruschi’s presence had a little something to do with that.

That said, it was not a spectacular game. The first half was downright painful. Penalties and fumbles and sacks and WHO THE HELL IS THIS TEAM?!? Patrick Pass, who’d been having a nice game for himself, suddenly went down like he’d been shot by a sniper, dropping the ball in the process. And lemme tell you, the sight of a Patriots player clutching any part of his body in obvious pain is an all too familiar and unwelcome sight to any Pats fan this year. Which, naturally, the idiot announcing team could not help but harp on. “This team is decimated by injuries,” they said approximately 587 times. “No, really?” I said sarcastically to no one in particular. “You’d think we would have heard about that.”

This, of course, did not stop them from claiming that the Patriots were “undisciplined,” “unprofessional,” and “100% likely to be overturned” on the catch by Deion Branch. Which they WERE NOT, Joe Theisman so nyuh!

*sticks tongue out in general direction of ESPN broadcast booth*

And the inevitable Peyton Manning praising was apparent as well as, for no reason whatsoever, one of the announcers said, “It’s like when Peyton Manning needs to make the throws…” To which I yelled, “Is Peyton Manning anywhere near this game? Did Peyton Manning even play today? There is NO REASON for you to be talking about Peyton Manning right now. None, whatsoever.”

And you wonder why Pats fans claim the team gets no respect. I mean, yes, it’s a ridiculous claim and perhaps we’ve all been listening to Rodney Harrison for too long but when the announcers are openly rooting for the other team (and yes, yes they were), we tend to get a bit annoyed. When they claim the team is “decimated” by injuries and then turn around and say the Patriots can’t use that as an excuse (which, I’m pretty sure the Pats never did), they imply that the fact that the Pro Bowl secondary and half the defense is injured is what? Negligible? I don’t think so.

At least John Madden’s nonsensical rambling is humorous.

Anyway, a win is a win is a win and best of all, Tedy’s back! Let’s hope he has Peyton Manning quaking in his cleats.


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Decidedly Underwhelming

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(This is…ecstatic?)

Chicago, come on now. Is that how we celebrate a World Series victory? Is that how we properly express our joy over a four-game sweep? Is that how we exult and delight in ending 87 years of misery and heartache and finally exorcising the demons of seasons past? Pathetic.

You call that a World Series celebration? Where were the Colombian soccer jerseys? Where were the goggles? Where were the painfully white boys with no rhythm (*ahem* JD, *ahem* Tek) singing off-key to Eminem? Where were the drunken interviews with your frat boy GM? Where, for the love of god, were the handshakes? That’s all you’ve got to give us? Jermaine Dye? Oy. Maybe there’s a reason that until last night, the White Sox hadn’t won a World Series in a billion years. Lack of interest? I mean, if the team can’t get it up enough to have a proper celebration, what are you gonna do?

You’d have thought at least Ozzie Guillen would be good for some insanity as he definitely knows from crazy and I swear to you, I’ve never understood a single word that man has said. But he stalked around the field like Bill Belichick. Where’s the fire, Ozzie? Where’s the passion? Where’s the madness? “Goddamit, why’d it take us four whole games? You bastards are lazy. LAZY! I’m’a go after your families if you don’t step it up.” I expected him to come riding out of the tunnel on an elephant draped with a White Sox flag.

No one even seemed drunk. Surely that is not right.

I’m sure the Chicago fans had the time of their lives. I’m sure they ran through the streets and knocked shit over and danced and partied all night long. And good for them, they deserved it. But the players, man, the players just didn’t seem all that excited. Now, I know the whole “act like you’ve been here before” chestnut, but the thing is, they haven’t. The fans haven’t and certainly none of the players have. Live it up.

The Chicago Tribune details a rally and a parade and good, the fans should enjoy it. But Paul Konerko probably won’t steer a duck boat down the Illinois River. And Scott Podsednik most likely will not be holding a sign that says, “Vladimir is playing golf today. This is better.” And there will most definitely be a shortage of the double finger points.

Look, I am fully aware of what I’m doing. I’m comparing the White Sox of this year to the Red Sox of last year and they fall short. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, every team from here until the end of time is going to fail miserably when compared to last year’s Red Sox team. This year’s Red Sox team had nothing on last year’s team. They were wonderful and fun and insane and infuriating and ecstatic and addictive and surreal at the time and they’ve only grown more so as time has passed.

This is what we do as fans, we romanticize the good times. We talk about them and build them up and embellish them and our memories become gold-tinted and sun-dappled. We forget about the bad times and revel in the good. Maybe Neil Diamond is onto something after all. “Good times never seemed so good.”

So my point, I guess, is this: If you’re a White Sox fan, live it up. A time like this may never come again. And if you’re a White Sox player, same goes for you. A little Eminem karaoke never hurt anyone.

Congratulations to the White Sox and their fans. It’s great, ain’t it?

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Remembering My Roots

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(Old habits die hard)

Apologies for the lack of updates lately, but if you want to know the truth, I’ve been largely sleepwalking through this World Series. It’s not that it hasn’t been interesting, because I guess it has, and it’s not that it hasn’t had it’s moments of drama because – ask Brad Lidge – they’ve been there. I think it’s just that the more I watch it, the more conflicted I become about who I want to win. At first I was all about Chicago. I mean, I was rooting against Houston (albeit half-heartedly) in the NLCS so it seemed strange to switch my allegiances once the series changed. And I’d gone along with the “Chicago beat the Red Sox and if they’re eventually crowned World Champions, at least we can say we were beaten by the best” train of thought. And I still do…to an extent.

Here’s the issue: The ball is bouncing Chicago’s way. Just ask A.J. Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye. They’re getting the calls. They’re admitting they’re getting the calls and they’re taking advantage of the bogus calls. Which, okay, I guess, but it almost makes me hate them a little bit. I mean, not really, but the thing is, the Red Sox have been Houston before. We have seen this eleventy billion times. We’ve played against a team getting all the calls and no amount of fighting could snap us out of the funk and stigma that a run of bad luck brings.

(And yes, I realize the Red Sox had many calls go in their favor last year but, unless I’m overlooking something, I don’t believe those calls were made in error. The ground-rule double was, in fact, a ground rule double. Bellhorn’s home run was actually a home run. And A-Rod’s slap play was, technically interference.)

I guess, in my infinite and irrational sense of justice and fairness in baseball, I have a hard time rooting for a team who gets things handed to them by the umps. Which is not to say that Chicago isn’t doing the right thing by taking advantage of these calls. It just feels a little, well, cheap.

Okay, here’s the real deal. I’m pretty sure that whoever was losing is who I’d be rooting for. I’m a Red Sox fan. And you know what they say about old habits dying hard.

And speaking of old habits, the Frank Thomas picture is largely for sentimental reasons. You see, when I was little, my favorite baseball players were Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn. I loved ’em. I loved The Big Hurt and had a White Sox hat that I wore proudly. I found it a couple of weeks ago as I was cleaning out my parents’ attic and it all came back to me. Man, I used to love that guy. Since then, he’s been proven to be anything but infallible, but he was sure something. Because when you’re young, at least in my case, it’s not so much about the teams as it is about the players. When you’re eleven-years-old, you don’t understand what decades-long championship droughts mean or the stigma of having a cheapskate owner. You know only that you love the players and, in your young and unjaded hearts, you consider them your friends.

Remember when Nomar was traded last year? How there were all these stories of New England five-year-olds crying themselves to sleep? Those stories broke my heart. Not because I wanted Nomar back (and as we have seen, that was a shrewd, if ballsy move on Theo’s part), but because I remember what it was like to be those five-year-olds. When the Bruins traded goalie Andy Moog to the Dallas Stars in 1993, my then nine-year-old brother was beside himself. He cried and cried. To him, the Bruins had just traded away one of his best friends. He didn’t understand how someone could do that. I don’t know when or where that mindset changes. I don’t know if it’s when fans come to understand free agency or when they first get their heart broken by a player they thought was their friend but at some point, we become less innocent and more jaded about our rooting interests. We start rooting for teams instead of players. Laundry instead of stats. And it’s too bad, but it’s the way it is. It’s so rare these days that someone will have the same favorite player as his or her parents because that player has likely been traded four times or been sent to Colorado before the kids have gotten a chance to see him play. That’s why the Troy Browns and Tedy Bruschis and Trot Nixons and Frank Thomasas are special. And that’s why the Roger Clemens and Ty Laws and Nomar Garciaparras and Patrick Roys will always leave a trail of broken-hearted six-year-olds in their wake. I’m not saying they’re bad people. They understand the business side of the game. And they do what they have to do. But the scars you suffer when you’re young take the longest to heal. That’s why a part of me still has a problem rooting for Roger Clemens. And it’s the same reason that part of me wants the White Sox to win it all. Not for Frank Thomas and the eleven-year-old I used to be that loved him. But for the eleven-year-olds that love him now.

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The Day The Earth Stood Still

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It’s been a year. Twelve whole months since everything changed.

One year ago today, we all prepared to see our beloved Twenty-Five in Red Sox uniforms as a united front for the last time. We readied ourselves for a fond farewell to our dearly departed. We promised never to forget them.

One year ago today, Pedro Martinez, drenched in champagne, held up the American League trophy and spoke incredulously to his GM: “Hey Theo! Look at that, American League champs! Oh my goodness!”

One year ago today, David Ortiz launched himself out of the Red Sox dugout in the physical manifestation of pure, unadulterated joy.

One year ago today, a group of cowboys and idiots tap danced on the “sacred” mound at Yankee Stadium and celebrated on Steinbrenner’s electric bill.

One year ago today, Tim Wakefield shed tears of joy in the very same place where he’d shed tears of anguish one year prior.

One year ago today, we all learned the power of believing.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

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What is the Sound of One Shoulder Shrugging?

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(photo from Yahoo! Sports)

Guess all those people who predicted that Houston was done were wrong. Turns out Albert Pujols’s titanic blast in Game 5 wasn’t really the death knell to Houston’s season after all but rather just a hiccup in the road.

Guess the ‘Stros had no intention of going down without a fight. Good for them. And so, we are left with, as Annette said, a World Series that includes a “never been versus a haven’t been since two years before they threw the thing on purpose. Interesting.”

And yet, in all of this, I keep thinking of Cardinals fans and the Cardinals themselves and how I honestly believe they’re a better baseball team than this and they don’t deserve this sour runner’s up trophy that’s seemingly been handed to them. I mean, look, no one’s gonna argue with the assertion that the Cardinals are a good team. No one’s gonna say that they don’t belong in the playoffs. This is not some barely peaking at .500 Padres team here. The Cardinals are a good freakin’ baseball team and I’d be willing to bet that if most of us who appreciate fundamentally sound baseball had geographical and genetic restrictions lifted, we’d gravitate towards the Red Birds. They’re just solid. So what the hell is going on here?

As a Red Sox fan, I’m surely not going to give them back any of the four games from last October. Those are ours and we get to keep them…forever. But I realized as I was watching Game 5, wherein I didn’t previously think I had a rooting interest, that I was cheering for the Cards. Maybe it’s because, having played them recently, I’ve come to like many of their players. The Astros were largely a big bag of NL mystery to me. I mean, I like Ausmus and Lidge. Berkman looks like a hockey player, or alternatively, like a lumberjack and who can’t get behind that? And Bagwell and Biggio have been playing since I was crimping my hair and proudly wearing a flourescent pink Minnie Mouse fanny pack. But I’m probably still a little pissed off at Roger Clemens, petty as that might be, but you break my heart, especially my earnest and trusting 15-year-old heart and I’m going to remember it.

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter to me. Major League Baseball has yet to make me commissioner – I have no idea why – so I don’t get to choose these things. Perhaps I’m just nostalgic for last year’s postseason which, though it nearly killed me multiple times, was such an adrenaline rush. If last year was a ride on that crazy-ass 420-foot, 120-mph, 90 degree roller coaster in Cedar Point, this year’s postseason was like the kiddie ride at Canobie Lake. They’re both fine and entertaining but only one of them makes you pee yourself with excitement and fear. And only one of them will have you bragging to your grandkids in 50 years about how you survived to tell the tale.

Obviously, I’m biased. I don’t pretend not to be. You have your own team in the mix and it becomes a matter of life and death. I can see how this World Series is exciting for White Sox and Astros fans. And I have no ill will towards either of them. Two World Series virgins is a good way for things to sort themselves out. But my point, which I’ve belabored for far too long, is that I’m not going to lose sleep over this. At least emotionally, I’ve moved on from baseball for the year. Yes, I’ll still watch the games and I’ll appreciate good plays as well as boneheaded maneuvers, but I can’t lie, the vast majority of my sporting subconscious is going to be thinking about the Patriots, and what they can do to turn things around, Tedy’s return, the Bruins sad excuse for a defense and whether or not Sidney Crosby is as advertised.

So congratulations White Sox and Astros fans. Enjoy the ride. There’s nothing like it.

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Hype Machine Working Overtime?

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The following is an email exchange between myself and Mer. I read an article entitled “First One for the Next One” by Michael Farber in the October 17th issue of Sports Illustrated (subscription required to read online) and wanted to know Mer’s thoughts on the hyping of Penguins 18-year-old phenom, Sidney Crosby. What follows is our discussion.

Kristen: Okay so, baseball is winding down (though the World Series looks to be exciting), and football only happens once a week. So I’m gonna need to write about hockey. I was just reading this week’s issue of SI at lunch and there’s a short but interesting article on Sidney Crosby (or, more specifically Crosby’s first NHL goal), but it compares him to Gretzky, Lemiuex, Lindros and says the hype is equivalent to LeBron James. Anyway, it’s an interesting piece.

My question, I guess, after reading that is, is the hype too much? He already seems like he’s trying to single-handedly save the team, (and re-energize the entire sport). Can we really expect that from an 18-year-old? When does it get to be too much?

Mer: Crosby is no doubt a huge talent, but I’m waiting a few years before I pass judgment on whether or not he’ll be the next Gretzky. I remember when Lindros came into the league with the Flyers, and people were crowning him “The Next One” before he even stepped on the ice. He said it made him uncomfortable, and I don’t think he dealt well with that kind of hype. He was a spectacular player to watch for those first few years, straight through to his MVP year. I mean, he was absolutely electric on the ice. But then came the head injuries, the personal problems with the Philly front office, and the problems with teammates, and eventually he went to the Rangers. Most people who didn’t get to watch him play every day consider him a bust, but that’s not even close to accurate. His points-per-game when he was with the Flyers was incredible. He’s proving right now in Toronto that he hasn’t lost it…he’s a hell of a player. When people crown a player “The Next One,” they’re assuming there will be zero injuries, zero personality problems, zero off-ice issues. But casting that kind of hype on a 19 –year-old kid, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed.

That said, I understand why Crosby is being hyped as such. The NHL needs a savior, and Crosby is it. The game needs to pulled out of the ground, and with new rules and new-look teams, it’s almost perfect to be able to flash the baby face of an 18-year-old kid who you can compare to Gretzky, isn’t it? Still, when you strap the future of an entire league on the back of a teenager, shouldn’t you expect him to stumble a bit along the way?

That raises another issue: that’s the trouble with the hype machine – it brings the attention and expectations to Crosby NOW, instead of maybe 5 years from now, when he’s really coming into his own. Americans have very little patience, very short attention spans – that’s a fact. So many casual fans (the ones we’re using Crosby to attract to the game) expect Crosby to look like Gretzky this season, so when things start to unfold and they realize that this is just a kid who needs a few years of work to improve his game at this level, they become impatient, they feel they were lied to. Is that really beneficial to anyone?

After I got home from my soccer game on Friday night, I watched a TIVO’d version of the Flyers/Pens game. Crosby obviously has a touch around the net; that much is obvious. But the one thing I found most interesting was his play at the other end of the ice. He made a couple of bad plays that led to Flyers goals, and afterwards, he looked extremely frustrated and a bit lost. I think he’s feeling the pressure to prove himself and live up to the hype right away, and so he is focusing on his offense and as a result, letting his defensive play suffer. I don’t think any of that is particularly troublesome, given his age, and given the fact that if there’s anyone who can mentor him right, it’s Mario Lemieux.

Also, it frustrates me when people say that Crosby is the most hyped player since Wayne Gretzky. Helloooooo – how could you have forgotten Eric Lindros so soon? He was on the cover of The Hockey News when he was sixteen years old, three years away from even playing in the NHL. You called him “The Next One” – are your memories really that poor?

Kristen: I think you make really good points. Particularly about the comparison to Lindros (which the article also mentioned). And it said the same thing; Lindros wasn’t comfortable with the attention, which, at least in part, led to problems.

Also, there was a comparison to LeBron James, in terms of level of hype. The difference is that James was going into a healthy league with a solid fan base and good TV revenues. Crosby is supposed to Save Hockey. It’s a bit different. Especially considering that most people at least understand the basics of basketball. Not everyone understands hockey. It often looks like complete chaos. And yeah, you can tell if someone is talented if they’re constantly on breakaways and scoring 8 goals a game but it’s like you said, what about the times when they don’t have the puck or aren’t skating for a score?

SI also made reference to Crosby needing to work on his “middling face off skills” which is valid. I mean, Mario Lemieux scored his first NHL goal on his first shot of his first shift of his first game. So Crosby’s already behind. I think the team needs to be cognizant of the fact that he’s going to put an immense amount of pressure on himself because everyone has anointed him the savior of hockey. I think they need to let him know that he doesn’t have to do everything. Because that kind of pressure would destroy him.

Mer: That LeBron James comparison is a great point. It is completely different to be expected to save an entire sport. If LeBron had a good year, but not spectacular, would people be so quick to give up on him? I don’t think so. Because, as you pointed out, people understand basketball. They understand that it takes a year or two, maybe, to grow into your own. With hockey, it’s different. It’s expected to all be automatic, because most people have very little knowledge of how different the NHL is from the college, junior, or European levels.

That’s a fantastic article. It makes lots of good points, but this is the most telling:

“Greatness isn’t decided at 18,” [Crosby] said last Thursday. “You can’t say a player’s good until he’s played 10, 15 years in the league. Great players are the ones consistent year after year, the ones who win championships.”

That kid is wise beyond his years. Eric Lindros arrived in Philly as a fresh-faced 19-year-old kid. He was immediately made Captain and expected to lead the team to a Cup. Crosby’s situation, luckily for him, is a bit different. With Lemieux as his mentor, and guys like Recchi and LeClair to help guide him, he’ll be just fine.

Kristen: I found him especially eloquent too. I was pleasantly surprised by his poise. I think he just needs to let himself be taught. He needs to let himself rely on the older mentors and not get a big head about things.

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Happy Anniversary

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